Friday, December 18, 2009

Winter cycling

I've finally fulfilled my dream and began cycling to/from work in the wintertime. You've got to do that in order to count as a hard core cyclist. Also, the bicycle is the fastest means of commuting for me. And, in my opinion, the most pleasant one as well. Traveling by bus is ok (or would be, if there was a straight connection), but I hate waiting for buses.

I invested in some winter gear:
- studded tires (Schwalbe Marathon Winter) for my hybrid
- a balaclava (Campagnolo T.G.S)
- winter gloves (Roeckl)
- thermal mid layer underwear (cheap ones).

The tires work great. They roll ok and provide sufficient traction. I realised that I need more traction one morning a couple of weeks ago, when I nearly crashed in an icy curve, at a considerable speed. Also, it's comforting to know that you'll be able to stop, when required, in a reasonably short distance. On the trip from home to work there are some intersections where car drivers usually stop on the bike lane, not before it, before they look if someone's coming.

The balaclava is a must. Last Friday the temperature was about -18 ° C when I cycled home from work, without a problem. The balaclava kept my face, my precious face, all nice and warm. Also, it conceals my identity nicely.

The Roeckl gloves are Windstopper gloves, perhaps suitable for Central European winters, but not really sufficient for temperatures of Finnish winters. However, I love them, because they've got quality imprinted all over them. Well, not literally. Even the packaging is so stylish. There's a long list of all the patented hi-tech techniques used in the manufacture, and even instructions for maintenance in Finnish. For gloves! Can't wait for spring/autumn, these gloves will be in their element then. For now, I got a pair of cheap mittens to wear over the gloves, works great.

As for the thermal underwear, I tend to get cheap ones from sales. I'm not going to get expensive ones for two reasons:
1) the cheap ones work well enough for me (I get hot very easily)
2) the underwear will start to smell very horrible in a very short time anyway.

Unless, the expensive ones don't accumulate smell like the cheap ones? If that were the case, I'd definitely get some expensive ones. Phew. Or, perhaps I should go for woollen ones...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

TdH 2009 pic

Here's a picture of yours truly and a bunch of fellow 32 km/h group members from TdH 2009 (reproduced with kind permission of the photographer). I'm in the front, wearing the same Kraftwerk jersey as I did last year. It's a tradition already. BTW, the guy at the finish line checking the race numbers, the same guy who did it last year, remembered to compliment my jersey this year too.

Also note that the two guys riding behind me have exactly the same shoe protectors as myself!

For TdH 2010, I'm hoping to recruit 3 guys of about the same size as me, who'll also ride Trek Madones, wear matching Kraftwerk jerseys and other identical apparel. We'll ride in perfect sync and be called Team Kraftwerk. I'll also rig an mp3 player and speakers to my bike so we can have "Tour de France Soundtracks" playing on repeat all the way through.

Ok, I'll stop daydreaming publicly now. But now that I've invented this fantasy, I'll probably dream about it each night.

Tour de Helsinki 2009

TdH 2009 took place last Sunday. This year it wasn't such a big event for me, as I've really not had time to ride the bike this summer. It was fun, but it felt a bit like "been there, done that". I didn't have any ambitious goals, I knew that I can do it (unlike last year), my friends didn't make it this year either, so I just went with the 32 km/h group all the way. My time improved some 8 minutes from last year. Not much, but this time I got off much easier. I wasn't even exhausted at the finish line. My derrière and the soles of my feet took the heaviest strain, because the group did the whole 140 km in one sitting. I suppose my shoes don't fit perfectly, because in the end my soles felt like they were in flames.

This time I had enough experience from mass events to distinguish possible dangers of riding in a group. I could tell that some riders were making things harder for others by not riding in a clean double line. I didn't like riding behind one guy who rode without hands each time he drank from his bottle. I was irritated by riders who overtook others when they should have slowed down along with the group. Last year, I just went along, blissfully unaware of the nuances of riding in a large group. Now I'm beginning to pick up on the etiquette.

What I'd really like to do, is to practice properly next summer, and then aim for the 4 h group in TdH 2010. I'm in a good condition now. If I can maintain it over the winter, my goal shouldn't be too far-fetched. I just have a slight feeling that I won't be able to concentrate on bicycling next summer either, as other matters will be more important in the family...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

HCM 2009

Haven't blogged much lately. Sorry for that, you (probably imaginary) readers. The summer vacation was pretty much uneventful in the sports front. Unless you count renovating the apartment and drinking beer as sports.

I did dare to run the HCM last Saturday though, even though I was quite unsure of my condition because of the lack of training. It went well, perhaps surprisingly. My goal was to run 42 km in about 4 hours 12 minutes, or at the pace of 6 min/km, which I managed to achieve by doing it in 4:04.

My tactic was simple: keep the pace slow and steady. Then, when there's not much distance left to go, and you know you can make it to the finish line, run faster. So, for some 3 and a half hours, I just jogged on and enjoyed the mass event. It was quite fun, watching the other runners, touring the city, enjoying the services offered by the organizers and the encouragement offered by the spectators.

Then, at 34 km, I realized that there's only 8 km to go, I picked up the pace. There were a lot of walkers by then I suppose that I overtook hundreds of people in the last few kilometres. It is much more fun to overtake than to be overtaken, in a sports event, I suppose. Then again, I suppose that my end result could have been better if I'd known the maximum pace I can keep up from the beginning. I'm not complaining, I'm just thinking out loud. I'm satisfied.

A couple of observations from my first marathon:

1) There were a lot of walkers from about halfway the distance. Why? Did they start too fast? Did they not eat enough? Was their tactic to run as far as they could, then walk? Did they just try without considering a tactic at all?

2) I'm a novice in the running world. I was the 890th (of 1912) in the men's series, which is not too bad. But when compared with all participants, I was the 1930th, which means that there were about a thousand women and/or old-timers who were also faster than me. My hat goes off to them.

3) Expensive sports gear might actually be worth the money. I wore cheap shorts, which chafed my thighs. At some point I thought that my muscles were aching, but actually it was just the skin that hurt. Should have gotten better shorts. I will not pay 30 € for a baseball cap though.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

New device

Got a Garmin Forerunner 405 sports watch this week. It's a heart rate monitor and a GPS device. I love it already. Just check out this example. Now I get all the data a nerd exerciser could want. Except cadence. Must get a separate sensor for that.

I must say I love the modern times. I purchased the device from handtec, because there it was considerably cheaper than in Finnish internet stores. I placed the order on Tuesday, and on Thursday evening FedEx brought the package to my door. Just two days! I remember ordering some posters from England about 15 years ago. Back then the process included exchanging the national currency to pounds in the local bank, snail mailing the order along with the bills to the retailer, then wondering for weeks whether the delivery would ever arrive or not (it did).

In case you're wondering, yeah, I'm not on such a tight budget anymore. At least I'd like to think that. My wife usually is horrified of the cost of anything sports-related, though. But anyway, I'll change the name of the blog to "Shamelessly elitist tons-of-money-spending cyclist" any time now. If I can be bothered. I'm on a summer vacation now, and I'll try to ride the bike more, sit in front of the computer less.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Result update

Ok, now the typing guy typed in my result! I'm officially clocked in at 3:03, which makes my average speed 33.1 km/h. Yay! I like the improvement.

Media appearances

I was recently informed that I made an appearance in the Tour de Helsinki 2008 video clip, and indeed, at 00:54, I got my one second of international internet famousness. Damn, I'm not content with that, I want more! Where's the 14 minutes and 59 seconds of my 15 minutes in the spotlight? I'm legally entitled to have it just like everyone else!

Ok, my ego is soothened somewhat by the fact that I appear in several pictures in this gallery of pictures from the Sveitsin-ajo. However, you might need the magnifying lense feature to see me. I'm the bloke in the Kraftwerk jersey that's coloured like the flag of France. Yes, the same one I wore in the TdH 2008. In case you're wondering, I do have another jersey as well, but as it is black, and my new bike is black, I didn't want to look like some bicycling ninja, or be called Blackie.

Oh yeah, and the results from the Sveitsin-ajo are being typed in as I'm writing this. The guy who's doing it hasn't gotten to yours truly yet at the moment. It's nice, however, that they're saving every now and then while typing. It's exciting to keep refreshing the browser and waiting for myself to appear.

It seems that the fastest group rode the distance in 2:37:54, i.e. some 27 minutes faster than me, or at the average speed of 38.4 km/h. Hmm... no, I'll never be able to do 100 km at that speed. It would take an insane amount of practice to do that. Perhaps, if I won the lottery, and I didn't have to work anymore, I could take the time to practice that much, but otherwise, there's not a possibility. Ok, if there's a 100 km downhill somewhere and there's a strong tailwind, then it's possible. But not in a real-world scenario.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Swiss mountains

Yesterday I participated in the Hyvinkään Sveitsin-ajo, a nearby bicycling event. I didn't have great expectations as I'd only managed to ride about 200 km this spring before the event. I thought that I'd just take it easy in the 32 km/h group. As it turned out, the group went faster than that, so I fell out of the group at some 20 km to go. Anyway, the event was great fun and I rode faster than ever before.

I noticed that I have some climbing abilities. There were some steep rises, which broke the group in pieces, but I didn't have as much trouble as some others did. If I hadn't stayed behind some riders who slowed down more than I wanted to, I'd probably have managed to stay in the group all the way. Actually, I kind of escaped a smaller group in a rise, and because of that I had to go the dullest part of the ride, some 10 km of flat road, against the wind, all by myself. A poor choice of tactic. Although, had there been more hills, I could probably have caught the 32 km/h group again.

It is, however, nice that there is some unexpected action in a ride like this. I guess it would be uneventful and kind of boring to just draft comfortably all the way. So, you get to ride faster than you would by yourself, but what's the point in that? It's much more rewarding to do some of the work yourself.

Distance: 101 km
Time: 3:04
Avg: 32.9 km/h

Friday, May 15, 2009

Infrequent exercise

My training programme for HCM and TdH, designed with scientific exactitude, has been blown to pieces, once again. First, I caught yet another cold. Must be the 3rd or 4th I'm going through this spring. Second, I've been so busy with other engagements that I haven't had time for training. Honest. Of course, I'd rather go bicycling on weekends and evenings, but when you're selling an apartment, there are a million things to be done, and the project takes from weeks to months.

However, exercise has been good on the few occasions that I've actually managed to do it. Two weeks ago, I ran a half marathon one morning. I just went running, the weather was good, the running flowed well, so I decided to run for two hours and see if that constitutes a half marathon. And it did, according to the non-scientific exactitude of Google Maps, the distance was about 22 km. If I run at the same speed, I'll do HCM in 4 hours.

Then, last week I bicycled to Kerava one morning to pick up a co-worker. It also went pretty nicely, even though the weather conditions were pretty far from ideal. Strong-ish wind and mediocre rain. On the way back my feet were soaked through and pretty much frozen solid. Now I'm beginning to see the point of shoe covers, must get a pair of those as soon as possible. I'm sure the coldness of the ride contributed to the cold I'm still suffering.

Last week there was a course on riding in a group, arranged by Hepo, but I couldn't participate because I was incapacitated by a massive hangover. The previous night, we went out celebrating with co-workers, and the night became rather long-winded and replete with various alcoholic beverages. I'm glad that there are only a couple of these events in a year, nowadays.

Damn, I really have to get back in discipline, exercise-wise.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Season premiere

Went on the first ride of the season yesterday and it was bliss. Painful bliss. As usual, there was a strongish tailwind on the way away from home. Once again I thought that man, this bicycling is easy, I'm doing 40 km/h with little effort, I must be in a great shape. And once again, when I turned back homewards, I noticed that there was a wind after all, remembered all the ways cycling can be painful, but was happy anyway.

The new bike is great. I'm thrilled of the easiness of shifting. I don't have to find the stick from the floor no more, the gears go up and down with a quick flick of a finger. I've given all of you a handicap by using obsolete technology, but watch out, now I'm state of the art. Well, ok, the new, electrified Dura-Ace drivetrain might be even more state of the art, but now, at least I'm hanging in there with my 105/Ultegra mix.

My back was in a shock from the ride yesterday, but luckily that seems to have passed. Also there was a slight pain in my knee today, which I suppose is a result of a non-optimal saddle height. The saddle felt a bit too low but I couldn't be bothered to stop and adjust it on my first ride.

Also my bike computer refused to work, which was a minor nuisance. I'd managed to purchase the cable ties of the correct width (the quality of which was crap), install the computer (even though the length of the cable ties was insufficient for the front fork) and test the functionality (which worked just fine on Friday). Then, nothing. The damn thing just didn't work. I've had connection problems before, which have passed with some adjustment, but this time nothing helped. The computer was just dead. Therefore I don't have specific distance and time for the ride. I'd even measured the wheel circumference and set the meter accordingly. Annoying.

Lately I've had a lot of trouble with entropy. Or at least I've noticed it at work. Things have been breaking a lot. My home computer broke as well as the bike computer, the remote connection on my company laptop hardly works at all, my car keeps on rusting and needing maintenance, perfectly renovated apartments don't stay perfect for long. There's always something to fix. Fixing things requires time and money. A human's life consists mostly of fighting entropy. But possibly it's not an entirely bad thing. The results of entropy can also be charming. You have to admit, it would be dull and uninteresting if things stayed the same forever.

Well, anyway, to end this bout of digression, might I recommend a book for a change? It's got nothing to do with bicycling, it doesn't tell you how to win entropy, but it's a fascinating read anyway. It's The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. I read it a couple of months ago and just thought of it while digressing about entropy.

Distance: some 50 km
Time: some 2 hrs
Avg: some 25-3o km/h

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Incoherent rambling

I've been a proud owner of a '08 Trek Madone 4.5 for nearly three weeks now. Haven't managed to actually ride the bike yet, though. Shameful, isn't it? Although I must say that my excuses are plentiful and, partly, even valid. First of all, I suffered from a persistent cold for some three weeks, during which doing any sports was unthinkable. Then I vacationed for a week in Berlin. And last, but not least, the weather in Finland is not suitable for bicycling yet. In my opinion. Sure, there are plenty of polar bears, disguising themselves as humans, who claim that bicycling through the year in Finland is possible. However, when I'm talking about bicycling, in this blog, I usually mean road bicycling, without winter gear. You know, the kind of bicycling that they do in European countries, like Italy, for example.

Come to think of it, I'm really beginning to hate the local climate. It really is miserable to have a three month summer vs. nine months of trudging in wet snow, coughing and suffering from various colds each year. I don't even ski. Well, you can always move to a warmer climate on pension, but perhaps doing just that should be considered earlier. Berlin didn't seem like a bad place to live at all.

Anyway. The season should be started soon. There's a bicycling event nearby about a month from now, about a 100 km ride. A couple of friends have expressed their interest too. I'm in, provided that
a) weather conditions are not too bad, i.e. no ice storm. No tornados either. Raining s**t will turn me off also.
b) I get to practice a bit before the event. A couple of longer rides should suffice.
c) The wife lets me.

Also I'd like to get a new bike computer and/or heart rate monitor. I can also live with the old ones, provided that I find some cable ties of the correct width so I can install the old bike computer on the new bike. It's not as easy as it sounds.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tough call

I've been sleeping on a hot bed of charcoal for some time now. Since last week I've been doing a lot of comparing of frame materials, drivetrain components and wheels in my sleep. It really doesn't improve the quality of sleep. After a few nights of delirious arguing with myself I came to the conclusion that I prefer the Trek Madone 4.5 2008 over the Bianchi Freccia Celeste 2005. Having made the decision eases the pain somewhat, but now I'm waiting for the actual bike to appear at the dealer's. He'd ordered the bikes last week, they should have been there yesterday but weren't, and I'm waiting for a call.

Furthermore, I caught a real fever besides the bicycle fever. It passed already, but I'm still kind of feeling flu-ish and unable to do any sports. Cough. Sneeze. It sucks.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Decisions, decisions

Seven days ago I vaguely suspected that I might want to purchase a new bike this season, if the financial situation so allows. Preferably an Olmo.

Six days ago, when I visited the bicycle fair, it became obvious that I need to get a new bike this season. Possibly a Bianchi, maybe an Olmo, anyway, an Italian bike, for sure.

Five days ago I was quite sure that I have to get myself a 2009 Bianchi 928 Carbon Mono-Q Veloce. The feeling lasted for several days.

Yesterday I found out that a 2008 Trek Madone could be purchased at a reasonable price, and the idea immediately became very attractive to me.

Today I visited my next-door bike shop and became aware that they have several nice bikes in my price range available. Oh boy, the decision is getting harder. Practically thinking, any bike in the price range of about 2000 € is surely good enough for me, so based on which criteria will I make the decision? Look? Colour? (Supposed) country of origin? The café racer discussion hi-fi status of the material and/or manufacture method of the frame?

Being a software engineer, I guess I'll decide the same way I do any rational decision: by defining the order of importance of the criteria, reducing everything into binary logic and ruling out options until there's only one left.

So basically there are four options available right now:

Olmo Sirius 2008:

It has a full carbon frame, Campagnolo Veloce parts and Campagnolo Khamsin wheels. The Olmo carbon frames are very good and reliable, I hear. A sensible choice, I suspect. Anyway I'll have to rule this option out based on the look of the bike. The black and red colour scheme just doesn't excite me. An ugly bike, might I say. Sorry, Olmo.

Bianchi 928 Carbon Mono-Q Veloce 2009:

This is a beautiful looking full carbon bike with Campagnolo Veloce parts. I definitely like the white colour. There's nothing wrong with this one, I'll just rule it out (at this point) because it's a new model, readily available, and therefore not "a find". However, this shall be my plan B (or C) if a bargain deal should fall through for some reason.

Trek Madone 4.5 2008:

The Trek Madone 4.5 has a full carbon frame, Shimano 105/Ultegra parts and Bontrager Race wheels. The Madone has some innovative design features, I hear. It looks pretty cool also. The Madone model is affiliated with Lance Armstrong, which is not a bad thing for me (yay Lance!). A local dealer is selling these at a reasonable price, so obviously I'm interested.

- reasonable price
- full carbon frame (which provides good hi-fi value, at least)
- interesting design
- a find.

- no Campagnolo parts
- no Italian prestige.

Bianchi Freccia Celeste 2005:

As I mentioned, today I visited the next-door bike shop, where I was offered a 2005 Bianchi Freccia Celeste. The guy at the shop said that they'd found some of these lying around in their warehouse. It has an aluminium frame with carbon forks and Campagnolo Chorus parts. The wheels are Campagnolo Zonda. They tell me that it's a bike fit for pro racing. I kind of believed it. The carbon fiber Campagnolo shifters and derailleurs do look very cool. I wasn't smashed by the grey colour of the frame, which looked kind of dull. Although it does kind of provide a cool "f**k you with your colours, I'm all business" attitude, when you think about it.

- pro quality Campagnolo parts and wheels
- plenty of Italian prestige
- a find

- kind of old bike isn't it?
- not a full carbon frame (but does it matter?).


Ok, it's starting to become obvious that I'm already deeply in love with the Bianchi Freccia Celeste. It's kind of an ugly one, but so am I. I think we could be sweet to each other.

The unbearable sweetness of choosing between two luxury items.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Today I kind of started the bicycling season by visiting the local bicycle fair. The supply wasn't quite what I'd hoped for (not a single Olmo bike in the fair), but rather enjoyable anyway. But then again, I am an elitist road racing snob. I don't get much kicks out of the dirt bikes and whatnot. You can't expect a whole fair devoted to road racing in a country of this size.

Anyway, I got a hell of a bicycling fever. Now, I don't see how I could avoid getting me a new bicycle this season. I've spent most of the evening reading brochures and surfing bike shops. Currently I'm liking the Bianchi 928 Carbon Mono-Q a lot. I guess I could settle for a 2008 Bianchi 1885, an alu-carbon frame model, which is affordable and readily available right now, but the thought of a non-carbon bike (and the colour) just doesn't satisfy me the same way anymore. BTW, thanks a lot, Jari, for throwing gasoline in the flames ;)

But then again, what's 2200 € for something you really like and would use for decades? You know, for instance, a grand piano or a Porsche would cost much more. Not to mention what a set of golf clubs and a golf club membership would cost, I imagine. Um, and a Picasso. So yeah, when put into perspective, actually purchasing a full carbon Bianchi starts to make sense.

Now that I've convinced myself, there's only the hard part left: to convince my wife that buying a 2000 € bicycle is not the epitome of futility but instead a good thing for the entire family. Which it is. Right, fellows?

Oh, I did manage to save some money in the fair too. I signed up for the Tour de Helsinki 2009 for the reasonable price of 40 € (including the t-shirt), and bought a pair of cycling shorts for 20 €.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Ok, I just registered for the Helsinki City Marathon. So by 15.8.2009 I'll have to get into shape again. According to a runner magazine I recently bought, for the next three months I'll have to run about three times a week, two shorter runs and a longer one. For the next three months I'll have to spice things up a bit. I don't know how, exactly, I didn't read the article all the way through.

Today I took a 83 minute run. The distance was some 14 km, according to Google Maps. At that speed 42 km would take slightly over 4 hours. I suppose I want to aim to doing it in less than 4 hours. I see I have work to do. Running for an hour and a half is easy. I suppose that running for four hours is hard. I don't know because I've never done it.

But at least, in August, it won't be as cold as it is now. I much prefer exercising in the summer. Today my hands nearly froze off. I'd gone on longer if it weren't for my hands. I like to have hands. I need them for lots of things.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mass gain season

It's been quiet on the exercising front lately. I go running every now and then, about once a week. Perhaps surprisingly, I didn't bloat uncontrollably over Xmas, even though I hardly did anything except munched a lot and napped on the couch whenever I wasn't munching. Oh man, in fact I got the munchies now, where are those crisps?

Oh yeah, (munch), this season looks good for me (munch) anyway. Last year I started practicing in May-ish, after about two years of doing not very much, sports-wise (munch). This year (munch), when the bicycling season starts, (munch) I'll be about 8 kg lighter than (munch) last year (munch). Ok, (munch munch), make that 7 kg lighter. (munch). Yeah, 6,9 kg it'll be. And I can start practising earlier, hopefully. (munch)

In autumn (munch), late one night I remembered dreaming about running the Stockholm marathon before. I went to the web page to find out that there were about 500 places left. As I couldn't make the decision on the spot, without consulting my wife, I didn't sign up. And now it's too late. Well, there's always the Helsinki city marathon, which should be the easiest one to begin with, as there will be no need to reserve hotel rooms or anything, and... 65€? What's up with that? I have to pay 65€ for running around the city? What a rip off. I'm disappointed. Does that include a T-shirt?


Anyway. Last week I purchased a running beanie cap to wear under the bicycle helmet in the cold weather. It cost 12€ in a sale (30% off the regular price). Also available there was a 27€ bicycling beanie cap (also 30% off), but it fit worse and seemed no better material-wise. I, for one, am such a novice in the sporting world that I usually can't tell which sports garment is meant for which brand of sports unless it's clearly said in the label or some other device. I usually have a hard time in sports stores separating the bicycling gear from the running gear, the running gear from the hiking gear and the hiking gear from other outdoor recreational or free time whatever gear. Unless they're all clearly labeled. And might I say that women's clothes aren't that clearly distinguishable from blokes' gear either these days. Am I old, blind or just confused by the colours?